Pitchers everywhere, including Farrell's pitchers, have long used illegal lotions in cold weather to get a better grip on the ball. Hitters have been well aware of this practice, and have accepted it without complaint. They figure that the better control a pitcher has, the better the chance he won't bounce fastballs off the side of their heads.
Only Pineda was so blatant this time that he left Farrell with no choice. Instead of sticking the pine tar in a discreet location, Pineda practically spray-painted this message across the Green Monster:
I'm cheating. Someone please catch me.
Pineda apologized to his teammates and promised it would never happen again. "I feel so sad," he said.
Girardi should've been red hot with rage over this, but he struck a conciliatory tone with the news media, describing Pineda as a well-meaning kid who simply "made an error in judgment." In fact, Girardi was less forgiving with the ESPN camera that, he said, was meant for dugout viewing only.
Cashman? He'd been warned by his old friend and current Bud Selig lieutenant, Joe Torre, to make sure Pineda got smarter than he was on April 10. And as stunned as the GM was about the pitcher's mind-bending choice, he was probably more stunned that nobody in his employ -- a coach, a video guy, a clubhouse guy -- saw Pineda slap on the pine tar as if it were aftershave and stopped him from taking the field.
"I'm embarrassed that we had an organizational breakdown that allowed this to happen," Cashman said.
The whole thing made for a few good laughs throughout baseball, and maybe the weirdest scene involving a Yankee pitcher since a biblical storm of Lake Erie midges attacked Joba Chamberlain in the fall of 2007. Typical of the Yanks-Sox rivalry, it was a wild and crazy night, missing only a Pedro Martinez-Don Zimmer rematch and a George Steinbrenner rant.
But with Ivan Nova likely headed for season-ending surgery, and with Pineda likely facing a suspension, the Yanks didn't see anything remotely cute about it. Before Wednesday night's game, Girardi hoped aloud that Pineda and his other starters "don't try to do too much" to compensate for Nova's absence.
Pineda tried to do way too much against the Red Sox, and what a shame it turned out to be. He was 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA entering this start, finally honoring the faith the Yankees had placed in him in 2012 when they dealt their top prospect, Jesus Montero, to Seattle for his powerful right arm.
Pineda missed two full seasons after blowing out his shoulder, and now he might miss two starts after suffering the mother of all brain cramps. Beyond that, he's now exposed himself as an athlete who doesn't believe in his abilities in cold weather. Good luck with that in October, Michael.
If there's even going to be an October, that is. What if the Yankees end Jeter's career by losing out on a playoff spot by one game, or two, in part because one of their most talented pitchers got himself ejected and suspended over something so impossibly foolish?
Then Michael Pineda's comedy act at Fenway won't seem the least bit funny.